New Yorker Giannina Braschi finds inspiration in the Puerto Rican Day Parade on 5th Avenue, one of the largest parades in New York City with nearly 3 million spectators annually. The parade is the subject of Braschi’s classic poetry collection “El imperio de los sueños”, which was recently re-released by AmazonCrossing for World Literature in Translation in Spanish and English editions, in paperback and Kindle.
In this postmodern trilogy of the late 1980s, shepherds from the countryside invade, conquer, and colonize New York City on the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ringing the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and overtaking the top floor of the Empire State Building where they sing and dance. This comic bucolic revolution evokes the longstanding Spanish tradition of pastoral poetry while conjuring the modern day images of New York City with all its energy and euphoria on the day of the parade.
In Braschi’s latest book, “United States of Banana”, that same revolutionary energy explodes in the resorts of San Juan, Puerto Rico–the author’s hometown–and runs south throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Braschi first published “El imperio de los sueños” in Spanish in 1988, the tour de force novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” in Spanglish in the 1998, and the dramatic new work of fiction “United States of Banana” in English in 2011. With these three books in three languages, the poet explores the linguistic and cultural journey of 50 million Hispanic-Americans living in the United States and debates the three political options of Puerto Rico—nation, colony, or state—as wishy, wishy-washy, or washy.
The Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrates the cultural heritage of 4 million Puerto Rican islanders and millions more on the mainland. In “United States of Banana”, Braschi discusses what it means to be a Puerto Rican writer: “Soy boricua. In spite of my family and in spite of my country, I’m writing the process of the Puerto Rican mind—taking it out of context—as a native and a foreigner—expressing it through Spanish, Spanglish, and English—Independencia, Estado Libre Asociado, and Estadidad—from the position of a nation, a colony, and a state—Wishy, Wishy-Washy, and Washy—not as one political party that is parted into piddley parts and partied out…”
Giannina Braschi’s titles are available from AmazonCrossing which makes award-winning and bestselling foreign languages authors accessible to English language readers for the first time. President of the Nobel committee for literature, Per Wästberg stated, “I have seen how recent laureates–Elfriede Jelinek…Le Clézio, Herta Müller–were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and the U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English… AmazonCrossing deserves praise. Such translation and distribution of good literature…can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons.” AmazoncCrossing assesses awards, reviews, customer sales data, and other information from amazon sites around the world to identify, then acquire the rights, commission translations, and introduce compelling voices to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the amazon books store, amazon kindle store, and other national and independent booksellers. Giannina Braschi is the first Puerto Rican author to be launched globally by Amazon.
A poem from “Pastoral; or the Inquisition of Memories” in “Empire of Dreams”
Translation by Tess O’Dwyer
On the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers—the New York Times, in headlines, and the Daily News—call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.